(From agencies)

The Army and Rangers will conduct a widespread operation across Pakistan’s Punjab to target militants, their facilitators and their hideouts, military sources said on Monday.

Pakistani police commandos stand guard at the blast site in Lahore’s park

Sources said the decision was taken during a high-level military huddle, chaired by Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif at the General Headquarters on Monday.

The crackdown would give paramilitary Rangers extraordinary powers to conduct raids and interrogate suspects similar to those the Rangers have used for more than two years in Karachi, a senior security official based in Lahore told Reuters on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to share details of the plan.

“The technicalities are yet to be worked out. There are some legal issues also with bringing in Rangers, but the military and government are on the same page,” he said.

One other military official and two government officials confirmed the decision on condition of anonymity.

After a meeting with his security officials on Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the perpetrators of the Lahore attack “cowards” and vowed to defeat the “extremist mindset”.

Anguished families spent Easter Monday burying their dead.

“I tried to pump my son’s chest and give him CPR but he was no more. He died right in front of me,” Javed Bashir said as relatives wailed at his son Mutahir’s funeral.

“My son, my son, nobody should lose their sons,” sobbed the mother of another victim as other women restrained her.

A spokesman for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan said the group had carried out the attack as “Christians are our target”, and vowed more assaults on schools and colleges.

The attack was the worst so far this year in a country grimly accustomed to atrocities, and will further undermine fractious inter-religious ties in the Muslim-majority nation.

In response, the country’s powerful army announced it had carried out raids in Lahore as well as in Faisalabad and Multan, two other major cities in Punjab province. More were planned. Read More

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